Cairo, a new original graphic novel from Vertigo/DC, debuted last week from the minds of journalist G. Willow Wilson, who was based in Cairo for several years, and Turkish artist M.K. Perker. The story follows five strangers who meet on the streets of contemporary Cairo, and are manipulated by a gangster-magician to help him find a missing hookah that happens to house a well-dressed, articulate genie. The genie also does his best to nudge events in the favor of the five unlikely heroes: a naive activist from the O.C., a demoted female Israeli soldier, a drug smuggler, an Egyptian Reporter and an American boy with a mysterious agenda. While the eclectic cast makes for an interesting dynamic, their interactions are bogged down by heavy-handed political rhetoric, and magic that seems to have no limit (or foreshadowing), keeping the sense of danger to our characters at an extreme low throughout the book, essentially sapping any suspense that the writer intended. Even death is only temporary in this novel, and many revelations that draw on actual Egyptian mythology have to be explained in detail for the reader to understand, and are not integrated into the mix very subtly. And the writer’s attempts to add romance to the book are awkward and lead to emotional climaxes that are hardly earned.
Despite these flaws, this is quite a fun action/adventure book with some pretty decent art courtesy of M.K. Perker. It’s an interesting look into an area of the world where tensions are on the rise, and censorship is a way of life. And if you don’t look too hard into the plot and star-crossed lovers involved, it’s a pretty neat story with fun villains and eerie magical exploits (particularly events that involve the Undernile). I don’t want to undersell Cairo, because I really did have a lot of fun reading it, but it may be one to check out in soft cover rather than paying for it in the current format. And I really do think that G. Willow Wilson is a talent to watch. C+